• Monday, December 11, 2023
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Explainer: Eight check points at Lagos international airport aiding extortion, corruption

From humble origins to thriving hub: The history of Muritala Mohammed International Airport

No doubt security checkpoints are present at every airport as they allow airlines and airports verify the absence of prohibited items in the cabin and ensure the safety of all passengers.

Check points are required for access to the boarding hall and the plane.

In airports across the world, an average passenger is expected to go through three check points at most within airport’s premises. These are check points that require them to show their boarding pass, check points that require that passengers present personal items in the available trays, separated from your hand baggage and check points that require that passengers and their baggage pass through security scanner.

Outside these check points, the only other avenue to get to interact with people is just the ticketing and immigration officials you check your travel documents such as tickets and visas to ensure they are valid for travel.

Read also: DSS presence at Lagos airport slows passenger facilitation

John Ojikutu, member of aviation industry think tank group, Aviation Round Table, a former airport commandant and chief executive of Centurion Securities said airports are national assets of national security and are therefore targets for attacks to homegrown and international terrorists.

In a bid to ensure safety of passengers, the key airport security defence layers set by by government in Nigeria include intelligence (Government security agencies); passenger- prescreening and check-in (airlines responsibility), airport access control, checkpoint screening (immigration and DSS), hold baggage screening (airlines) and on-board security (airline/government security agencies).

He said anything outside these defence layers are totally unnecessary and should be cut down to allow for passenger facilitation at the airport.

However, in Nigeria’s busiest airport, Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA) Nigeria, check points are enormous and most times get passengers worn out before they get to their seat on the plane.

Most times, these check points are totally unnecessary and have been seen to aid bribery, extortion and other corrupt practices at the airport terminal. Eight of such check points were observed at the airport.

Also Fola Olatunji-David with tweeter handle @folasanwo had narrated his travel experience listing number of persons that travellers will have to interact with, most of whom ask for tips before they allow passengers move to the next check point.

First, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and customs who are supposed to be seen not heard are always at the front door presumably to profile and stop contraband from leaving the country but most times harass and demand money from passengers.

In other countries, these intelligence and security agents are only called on when scanning machines dictate prohibited contents on passengers.

Secondly, the point where bags are weighed is another avenue to make money.

According to Olatunji-David, “You get to your check in area there’s someone that weighs your bag and put a sticker on it or gives you a piece of paper with the weight written. As long as you’re checking in luggage you must pass there. Even if it’s a box of feathers, you must weigh it! Unnecessary.”

He suggested that a few industrial scales can be put in place and one person can man it only for people who suspect they’re over the limit.

Third are staff checking visas and tickets.

“When you finally join check-in line, there’s the airline staff sitting there checking peoples visas and return tickets and putting one useless sticker at the back of the passport. That’s the work of the person at the counter,” Olatunji-David stated.

“They also think they’re experts on world travel rules. so for me whenever I have a not-so-straightforward itinerary, I avoid showing them full trip. I’ve missed one flight and almost missed another because they were insisting I couldn’t transit in a country I knew I could.”

These people most times subtly ask for money from passengers.

Forth are those offering to help passengers fill their yellow card document.

There is always a small line of people waiting to help passengers fill or offer them a pen or a place to fill the yellow card form that will be submitted at immigration and this is not for free. These people are airport staff and have made this part of their side hustle.

Fifth is persons checking ticket class of travel. This is another unnecessary check point where passengers are extorted.

Olatunji-David explained that just before passengers get to security, there’s a divide for business/crew/VIP to go left and economy/premium to go right.

He said there is one person there checking tickets to confirm passenger class of travel and those who storm the wrong side are often extorted by officials.

He said access controlled barriers can do a better job in this regard.

Sixth are those asking questions just before immigration officials. These officials are known to summon passengers and just shower praises on them while checking passenger passports and in the process ask for money. They then return passengers to the line where they were before to see the actual immigration officer.

Seventh are those checking to see if passengers are at the right gate. This is another avenue to get something off passengers.

“When you get to your boarding gate, there is someone who checks your boarding pass that you’re in the right gate. Why? There’s only three or four functional gates in the whole airport, why do we need a whole human to remind/check,” Olatunji-David stated.

The eighth is hand luggage check. This happens after the scanning machines have scanned and checked passengers. At this point, after the multiple checks, passengers are tired and just need to sit on the plane but there are two people always begging passengers for money under the guise of checking passengers’ hand luggage. They often find nothing but do all they can to ensure passengers give them money. Their usual statement is ‘anything for the boys?’.